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Here at StephanieClairmont.com, we specialize in helping people find relief from IBS, so you may be wondering why we’re writing about leaky gut. We love to research all the latest trends related to digestive health to help you stay in-the-know with the most up to date, evidence-based information! With SO much information available at our finger tips, it can be near impossible to sort fact from fiction. Turns out, there may be some merit behind leaky gut, and it it just may be related to IBS and IBD. Now things are getting interesting!
Leaky gut has been getting some attention for a while, and now there is finally some science behind it to help explain what it is, what causes it, and how it can be managed. If you’re asking, ‘So what is leaky gut, anyways?’, don’t worry we’ve got you covered! Read our post titled “What is Leaky Gut” for everything you need to know about this digestive disorder.
Leaky gut and inflammation
Because leaky gut is related to inflammation of the intestinal barrier, it makes sense that leaky gut could be associated with IBD since it is also characterized by inflammation. It can be easy to get IBS and IBD mixed up, but remember that IBD (Crohn’s and Colitis) involves patches of inflamed tissue anywhere along the digestive tract, whereas IBS is not generally associated with inflammation. This episode of Relief TV called “What is IBS and What are the Symptoms of IBS” might help clear things up. Nevertheless, there is some research that suggests leaky gut could still play a role in the development of IBS.
Leaky gut and IBS
Changes in intestinal barrier function (remember those tight junctions) have been observed in IBS and have been thought to play a role in the development of the disorder. A recent study found increased permeability in the small intestine of patients with diarrhea predominant IBS (IBS-D) as compared to healthy patient controls. However, the same findings were not true for other subtypes of IBS, like constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C) or those with IBS who experience both diarrhea and constipation (IBS-M). Although sample sizes in these studies were small (making it difficult and unreliable to generalize findings to the population as a whole), the results give us some clues about how leaky gut and IBS could be related, and provides some direction for future research.
Leaky gut and IBD
Research suggests that patients with IBD have increased intestinal permeability caused by weakened tight junctions. Although the causes of IBD are also a bit of a mystery, several studies have shown that altered intestinal permeability may be an early indicator of the development of Crohn’s disease. Additionally, the intestinal barrier of patients with ulcerative colitis has been shown to have a reduced number of goblet cells, and a thinner mucus layer. Goblet cells are important for producing the mucus layer that protects the intestinal barrier. So, fewer goblet cells means less mucus and reduced protection for the intestinal barrier. What we aren’t clear about is whether the changes to the intestinal barrier are caused by the inflammation of IBD, or if the inflammation of IBD causes the changes to the intestinal barrier. A classic ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma.
This is a great diagram that shows the difference between the intestinal barrier in a healthy person compared to someone with IBD. There’s lots to look at, but even just focusing on the differences in the mucus layer and the goblet cells we mentioned might help you visualize what’s going on. Also notice the small gaps between the cells on the IBD side, see how things can more easily ‘leak out’?
Have we covered all your burning questions about leaky gut? I hope you are just as excited as we are to see where future research will lead us in our understanding of the causes of IBS and other digestive disorders! We love to hear your thoughts and questions, so please do leave a comment! They always inspire us to create content to better serve you!
For now, we highly recommend following the Low FODMAP diet, which is a diet you follow strictly for 2-6 weeks and then gradually re-introduce foods. If you need a step-by-step way to follow this diet, sign up so we can send you our free guide:
Yours in health,
Stephanie and the Team (article written by Alida Iacobelis)
PS. Join me in the free Facebook group Beyond FODMAPs where you can connect with others, get advice and support to help you improve your digestive health and better manage symptoms.
References for this article
Michielan A, D’Inca R. Intestinal permeability in inflammatory bowel disease: pathogenesis, clinical evaluation, and therapy of leaky gut. Mediators Inflamm. 2015. doi: 10.1155/2015/628157
Mujagic Z, Ludidi S, Keszthelyi D, Hesselink MAM, Kruimel JW, Lenaerts K et al. Small intestinal permeability is increased in diarrhea predominant IBS, while alterations in gastroduodenal permeability in all IBS subtypes are largely attributable to confounders. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2014; 40:288-297.